Having just wrapped up a Broadway run of The Illusionists, Winnipeg-born illusionist Darcy Oake is not one to simply rest on those laurels. For while he considers his Broadway appearance one of the pinnacles for his career, he is back on the road on a North American tour of the show, which will include a Vancouver stop later this month.
“There is zero time off for the holidays,” says Oake by phone from New York City of the grueling Broadway run which closed on December 30. The next day, the touring show began its travels to Edmonton for the start of the tour on January 1.
Calling it a “pretty hectic” schedule is an understatement, but Oake is looking forward to joining this latest touring show.
“The nice thing about the show is that it changes quite a bit depending on where it is, and which acts are in the show,” says Oake, who estimates he has appeared in ten different versions of The Illusionists over the years.
For the Vancouver shows Oake will be joined by An Ha Lim (The Manipulator), Colin Cloud (The Deductionist), Adam Trent (Magician) and Jonathan Goodwin (The Daredevil). Having previously been billed as “The Grand Illusionist”, in this iteration, Oake will be known as the “Modern Interpreter”.
And while all the illusionists in the show will perform separately, there are also moments where the quintet comes together.
“That’s the wonderful thing about this show, because you get to see five people like that together on stage and everybody is highlighted in their individual portion, and then there are a handful of bits which involve everybody,” says Oake.
It is this ever-changing dynamic that Oake says keeps things interesting in The Illusionists.
“Because of the wide variety of material and the distinctive styles of the performers, every portion of it is so different,” he says. “It’s fast-moving, it’s quick. It never gets boring for an audience.”
Born in Winnipeg, it may have been his father who quite innocently set a seven-year old Oake on his magic trajectory, but it was one of magic’s biggest names who had a significant impact.
“David Copperfield was definitely the guy that I idolized as a kid and I watched all of his stuff and studied it,” says Oake.
But while Copperfield may have left an impression, Oake says it was just as important to find his own voice in the world of magic, and how it translates to an audience.
“It’s hard to connect with a crowd until you figure out what you have to say, and that doesn’t come until you’re gained some life experiences,” he says. “I think the amount of shows that I did as a kid, opening up to it, and understanding what works and what doesn’t work really made a difference. It’s all about connecting with the audience and figuring out who you can be true to yourself at the same time.”
Finding his own unique voice quickly propelled Oake into the spotlight with a career that has now included performances around the world, a fifth place finish on Britain’s Got Talent in 2014, a private performance for Queen Elizabeth, and eventually to Broadway and beyond.
Oake credits shows like the Got Talent series and Netflix for magic’s resurgence. “It’s really become rejuvenated and popular again,” he says.
With its recent gains in status, Oake has also seen a movement away from the term “magician” in favour of “illusionist”.
“Essentially a magician and illusionist are the same thing, but if you really wanted to differentiate, an illusionist would be doing sort of a larger, grandiose, stage theatrics,” he explains.
And whatever you do, don’t call them tricks.
“It diminishes the level of effort that goes into it,” says Oake. “Whether it’s the psychology behind it, or the nuances, or the details, or the rehearsal; it’s so much more than a trick.”
Despite his appearances on television, Oake says it is appearing in live shows like The Illusionists that give him the most satisfaction. Ironically perhaps, it is the television medium that can be magic’s worst enemy.
“There is a certain aspect of magic on TV which is very easy for people to assume it’s all camera tricks, even when it’s not,” he says. “When you show someone something impossible and they’re watching it through a screen, it’s easy for them to assume it was done with editing or camera tricks. Whereas if you’re watching something live or in person, you can’t debate what you’re seeing.”
For Oake fans – and they are legion if you consider the nearly 100 million people who have watched the YouTube clip of his performance on Britain’s Got Talent – his love for working with birds continues to The Illusionist stage.
“That act holds a special place in my heart,” he says. “It was the one that really changed the game for me. It will definitely be part of The Illusionists.”
The Illusionists plays Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre January 15-20. Visit vancouver.broadway.com for tickets and information.